Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Visual long-term memory capacity appears massive and detailed when probed explicitly. In the real world, however, memories are usually built from chance encounters. Therefore, we investigated the capacity and detail of incidental memory in a novel encoding task, instructing participants to detect visually distorted objects among intact objects. In a subsequent surprise recognition memory test, lures of a novel category, another exemplar, the same object in a different state, or exactly the same object were presented. Lure recognition performance was above chance, suggesting that incidental encoding resulted in reliable memory formation. Critically, performance for state lures was worse than for exemplars, which was driven by a greater similarity of state as opposed to exemplar foils to the original objects. Our results indicate that incidentally generated visual long-term memory representations of isolated objects are more limited in detail than recently suggested.

Original publication




Journal article


Q J Exp Psychol (Hove)

Publication Date





1176 - 1182


Object memory, fidelity, incidental memory, memory details, object recognition, visual long-term memory, Adult, Female, Humans, Male, Memory, Long-Term, Pattern Recognition, Visual, Recognition, Psychology, Young Adult